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County planning commission approves new zoning reg
July 10, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

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By a unanimous vote, members of the Scotts Bluff County Planning Commission approved an amendment to county zoning regulations to require a zoning permit for any non-dwelling structures in districts zoned agricultural.

However, the planning commission’s vote is only a recommendation. The county board will make the final decision at its next meeting on July 15.

Bill Mabin, the county’s building and zoning director, said the amendment is to assure any permanent new structure of more than 200 square feet comply with all regulations. Those include setbacks and land usage, in addition to airport and flood plain regulations, which are both administered by the federal government.

Mabin said that while some landowners will call his office to make sure their new building complies with all regulations, most do not. “There have been plenty of times when the first time I knew about a new building was after it was completed,” he said.

He added that one structure he measured fell just a foot outside of the setback limit for the property. If it had been inside that limit, the building would have had to be moved.

With the new regulation, landowners will have to fill out an application with the building and zoning office, including a floor and site plan for the building, and pay a $100 fee. The fee is for time and fuel for a county inspector to look over the site prior to construction.

Mabin said similar regulations have already been implemented in the state’s larger counties, with fees varying from $100 to $250. Counties that require the permits include Adams, Buffalo, Douglas, Hall, Hamilton, Howard, Lancaster, Madison, Merrick, Pierce and Sarpy.

Scotts Bluff is the state’s sixth largest county based on population.

Several people spoke in opposition to the proposed amendment, saying rural residents are already paying enough in property taxes, for building permits and other taxes and fees.

County resident Dave Fisher said the problem of landowners not reporting construction could be handled through publicity, something like the Diggers’ Hotline because current regulations are working fine.

“For a farmer, a building is optional,” Fisher said. “It takes time away from planting, harvesting and everything else. The regulation you’re talking about is enough to sidetrack a project. Discouraged projects cost both the landowner and the builder.”

Mabin said the amendment isn’t about raising money for the county, but getting landowners to inform the county ahead of time, so all restrictions are accounted for before the building goes up.

County commissioners will consider the recommendation during a public hearing on Monday, July 15. The board meeting starts at 4:30 p.m. in the commissioners room on the second floor of the County Administrative Building.

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